A city flush with health

Isabella Plains Rain Gardens, Jondol Place

As Surveyor-General Charles Scrivener looked at the prospects for a future city, top of mind was a precious commodity, a natural life-giving ingredient: water.

Fast forward more than a 100 years. An inland city as beautiful as ours has clearly benefited from Scrivener’s extraordinary vision.

Our urban lifestyle is framed by meandering rivers, spectacular waterways and stunning lakes.

Our urban waterways deliver a real sense of natural harmony, being wonderful social amenities and valuable habitat for a diverse array of local wildlife as much as important pollutant traps.

In fact, our intricate network of interconnected drains, pipes, causeways and waterbodies were designed to capture urban stormwater run-off. While these stormwater systems serve their purpose, in many ways they have also contributed to some environmental challenges we face today.

Stormwater pollution is one of the biggest threats to our lakes and rivers as they carry pollutants from our built urban environment into our precious waterways. Organics like grass clippings, fallen leaves and dog droppings don’t belong in the drainage system.

An ambitious, jointly funded Australian Government and ACT Government water quality infrastructure program has just been successfully delivered. This $93.5 million project was a-once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve our urban water quality.

The impressive Isabella Plain Rain Garden is just one of 20 amazing water infrastructure assets that has been built. This remarkable rain garden is the largest in the southern hemisphere, a world leader in the treatment of urban pollutants.

Over the next couple of years, well over half a million plants will take root across the wetlands, ponds, rain gardens and other assets making up the Healthy Waterways project, establishing an oasis of natural water filtering ecosystems across these beautifully designed urban waterways.

While built infrastructure aims to filter pollutants from stormwater, ongoing community education is the real key to preventing pollutants from entering waterways in the first place.

Without doubt, the H2OK: Keeping our Waterways Healthy education program resonates. With a short, sharp, simple message of only rain down the stormwater drain. It’s a call to action. With nearly 1000 footpaths stencilled, this simple message serves as a salient reminder that urban stormwater flows directly into our lakes and waterways.

To see how this huge project has contributed to our great city visit www.environment.act.gov.au/water/act-healthy-waterways

Brett McNamara is with ACT Parks & Conservation Service.

Brett Mac

Brett McNamara - Regional Manager with ACT Parks & Conservation Service

Brett loves our national parks almost as much as the Gang-gang on his uniform. He is prone to using the word 'majestic' when referring to the bush capital. He loves talking. A lot. His favourite animal is the playful platypus.

Article also appeared in The Chronicle